Just a very quick post - yesterday I, along with hundreds of others, crowded into the grounds of Sensoji temple in Asakusa, for the annual Hagoita (Battledore) fair. Hagoita are paddles for playing a kind of badminton-type game, called hanetsuki. The hagoita on sale are strictly ornamental, though. They're believed to bring good luck for the new year, and are usually decorated with kabuki actors, but popular actors, sportspeople and anime characters are common too. They cost upwards of 2,000 although you can get painted ones for a little less.
To be honest, there were very few people buying (a friend tells me it's a true marker of consumer confidence - if no one is buying hagoita, it's a bad year generally, for retailers). There were hundreds of middle aged and old folks with expensive cameras snapping away, and the stall holders didn't seem to mind. When someone does buy a hagoita, you'll know, because the sellers and buyers (and the crowd around them) all do the special Edo style 3-3-3-1 clap. You'll hear it at rakugo performances too. It's called ippon tejime. The 'leader' calls "iyoo" and everyone responds with sets of 3 and then 1 clap. 3 x 3 adds up to 9 (see, I paid attention in maths class!) which in Japanese is ku. It also sounds like "pain" or "stress". The kanji for ku or kyu is 九. A single clap, 'da' is like an extra stroke added to the kanji, turning ku to maru 丸 or in other words, stress and pain is finished. Phew, sorry that was a clunky explanation, but I hope you get the idea!
|The guys at the hagoita stalls are remarkably patient as everyone snaps away.|
|I think these were decorated by a local art school. There were some great and bizarre designs.|
|This one was based on the famous Hiroshige ukiyo-e. It would make a great, though pricey, souvenir of Asakusa.|
Asakusa is always a jolly place to hang out, but when these Edo-era fairs are on, you can expect to see lots of folks in happi coats, local geisha posing and strolling shamisen players. I avoid the place on weekends, but the back streets are always nice and feel quite local. It's not just a tourist area; I go there to pick up accessories and sheet music for my shamisen, and when I wanted a yukata, I got one made to fit in Asakusa (quite an experience, as the store owner, in her 90's, barely reached my hip. Getting measured was a challenge!). The back streets and arcades are also full of retro Showa-era cafes and cheap restaurants. It has a real, downtown, working class feel.
|Geisha photo op.|
|You'll find the real Showa spirit around here.|